E.L James' novel Fifty Shades of Grey has passed both Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Highway Code" to become the bestselling book and ebook in British history. Your humble male narrator is confused, dear readers.
I'd really only known of the book's existence from a few sources. Firstly, it was the constant recommendations from the Book Depository whenever I was browsing, as well as its high place in the bestseller list. Secondly, it was the absolutely scathing review a lovely lady friend made when I asked her about the book. Lastly, the level of eroticism during this reading by Gilbert Gottfried is unsurpassed.
I'll admit after strolling through my University campus, and seeing an absolutely alarming number of young, intelligent co-eds reading the novel out in the open, somewhat piqued my curiosity. I also found it somewhat admirable that the author, E.L James, had made herself possibly wealthier than her star - Christian Grey. So, I ignored the growing back-log of books I've been waiting to read and acquired the e-book.
No, just no.
One could easily dismiss it as nothing more than Twilight fan fiction (true). Or, one could simply attempt to tackle the book themselves. I think my patience ran out when I read the line "my inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils". Christ.
Look, male snobbery aside, the book is terribly written. It features a Twilight-esque pairing of young Anastasia Steele, a young, clumsy virgin, who has never masturbated and spends her years curled up on a chair, reading classic English literature, not realizing how attractive she is. Enter, our hero - Christian Grey. Mr Grey is a wildly successful business tycoon, who also happens to be stalkerish, brooding, misogynist, borderline rapist (and possessor of strangely long fingers), who enjoys administering over rather boring, very formal, corporal punishment that masquerades as a dom/sub relationship. A girl being repeatedly spanked until it really hurts? Insanity, if you happen to be living in 1839.
I didn't manage to finish the book, but one Katrina Lumsden did, and her review far surpasses my own, even with her generous use of GIFs, she does a nice job of summing up everything I despised about the book:
Now I'll be totally honest, the biggest issue I have with Fifty Shades of Shit is neither the sex nor the horrible writing. It's the plot. Thin as it is, it's still there, its core message being that, given enough time, you can change someone. While I don't have any problem with this if all you're trying to do is help them to lose weight or quit smoking, when you're talking about an emotionally and (dangerously close to) physically abusive relationship, sending that kind of message is ridiculous and irresponsible. Christian is controlling, possessive, condescending, and cruel. He doesn't allow Ana to behave as she normally would, and Ana just puts up with it, insistent that if she can give him what he wants, when he wants, as often as he wants, she can eventually begin to pull his strings. Will it work? In the books, probably. In real life? No. Almost never. How many idiotic, weak women are going to waste their lives on some emotionally retarded prick because they've read shit like this and think this kind of fucked-up fairytale will come true for them? I've known women with this mentality. "Oh, he's so dark and dangerous and threatening, but he's got a sad, lonely side, and if I could just figure out what's wrong, I could change him!"
Why is the book so popular, then? Don't ask me, it did the jobs of being a more adult-based Twilight fan fiction, and (I assume) deeply repulsive to the male half of our species. Then again, "Fifty Shades" describes female sexual submission written by a woman author, for women, from a female character's perspective. Probably not my cup of tea.
I think I speak for all men when I say that I hope I never have to read the phrase "Christian Grey flavoured popsicle" again.